Apple's Voice-Powered Virtual "Assistant" Coming to iOS

siri logoApple will have an extensive voice recognition service in a future version of iOS called 'Assistant', according to a report on 9to5Mac.

It has been rumored that Apple was planning to include voice-related features from its acquisition of personal assistant company Siri, and a partnership with speech-to-text specialists Nuance. Apple, however, didn't mention any such features when it first demonstrated iOS 5 at WWDC in June.

This new "Assistant" feature in iOS 5 is claimed to take voice input along with other user-specific information, such as location and contacts, to provide a powerful service to the user:

We can imagine a user asking their iPhone “Assistant” to setup a movie with one of their friends. The user might say “setup movie with Mark” and based on Mark’s contact info and the user’s location data, will be able to offer tickets to a local theater and send Mark the information.

9to5Mac notes that development of the feature is ongoing and may not be finished in-time for iOS 5, but did find mention of 'Assistant' in buried in the iOS SDK.

"ASSISTANT_ENABLE_WARNING" = "Assistant uses your voice input and other information like your contact names, song names, and location to understand your requests. This data will be sent to Apple to process your request and to improve Apple products and services."


The feature sounds just like what Siri had been working on prior to its acquisition. Their iOS app Siri Assistant remains available on the App Store for download. Siri focused on a concept called "Virtual Personal Assistants" (VPAs) that would accomplish tasks for the user.

Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs) represent the next generation interaction paradigm for the Internet. In today's paradigm, we follow links on search results. With a VPA, we interact by having a conversation. We tell the assistant what we want to do, and it applies multiple services and information sources to help accomplish our task. Like a real assistant, a VPA is personal; it uses information about an individual's preferences and interaction history to help solve specific tasks, and it gets better with experience.

Siri's implementation used Nuance's voice recognition engine to translate spoken requests to text which would then be processed. Apple has been rumored to be working closely with Nuance to provide the same transcription service to iOS users.

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Top Rated Comments

mattkowalski Avatar
168 months ago
Hope it's a big improvement on the current voice recognition...

Me: Play song by [band name].

Phone: Dialing [ex-girlfriend's name].

...not helpful while driving!
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Blakjack Avatar
168 months ago
This better be fully baked in time for the iOS 5 release. Android is way ahead when it comes to voice commands.

Not to be rude, but Android voice commands are half baked. What's the point if it works only sometimes?
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rdlink Avatar
168 months ago
Hope it's a big improvement on the current voice recognition...

Me: Play song by [band name].

Phone: Dialing [ex-girlfriend's name].

...not helpful while driving!


lol

But a bit of advice: Get your ex-girlfriend out of your address book, lest you soon to be ex goes snooping...
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TNTN Avatar
168 months ago
And I'm sure it'll join Voice Control as one of my never-used features.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AngerDanger Avatar
168 months ago
the voice command thing i will belive a good one when i see it. I used the androind one up to revision 2.3 and it was severaly half baked at best. I hope apple wates gets it right and comes out ahead. I can see this being the ios 5.5 mid revision add on with ipad 3 and LTE iphone. The now you can just talk to it and it will do what you want no more typing why type when you can talk is what steve will say

Tend to understand Yoda-talk, even the smartest of phones do not. Maybe that's why you haven't seen a good voice command system yet. :D
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Elrond39 Avatar
168 months ago
It seems to me like we're getting pretty close to a Hitchhiker's-Guide-in-your-pocket scenario... Now's the time to start planning/designing "Don't Panic" cases for future iPhones. ;)
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)